Austin Whitt called Saturday’s Train to Hunt sprint race as part of the Mountain Archery Festival “borderline brutal.”
With a 50-pound pack on and needing the focus required to hit a target from 30 yards away, The Bayfield native won the grueling event, which was held at Purgatory Resort, in 30 minutes, 5 seconds.
“Ground to overheads, and the get-ups with your pack are absolutely brutal, and then to try and shoot, your shoulders are on fire, you have to be extremely accurate on top of it, so it takes so much composure,” Whitt said. “It was a really challenging course and I’m glad I did well.”
Combining fitness, accuracy and composure, the Train to Hunt race was designed in mind to raise the heart rate of the competitors in order to simulate an actual hunt. In the first part of the challenge, competitors had to run the three-quarter of a mile course, while attempting to hit five targets, but there was a unique twist, additional physical tasks. They had to sprint to the target, steady, aim and shoot. Then came the tough part. The first target required 20 over-the-box step-ups, the second, 20 ground to overhead pack lifts, the third, a 50-yard overhead pack carry, the fourth, 10 pack get-ups over a log, and the final task was to sprint to the finish.
The second part of the competition was all about accuracy, which consisted of a three-dimensional hunting course as then, competitors had to hit 25 targets set up at 10-60-yard shot intervals on a downhill course, spread out across 1.71 miles. If you miss the target? More exercise in dropping down and finishing 20 burpees.
Mary Whitt and Kelly Sutherlin, both of Bayfield, were paired up together and both found that their competitive drive was pushed to the limit, but were also happy to be among friends.
“Mary and I are both super competitive, and Mary got a bow a few months ago, so it’s nice to have a friend to do this with,” Sutherlin said before the Train to Hunt kicked off. “We’ve had a lot of fun today, but we also know how challenging it is. When you’re running with your pack, your adrenaline is going and you’re expected to shoot well, it’s really the only thing that can actually simulate the actual hunting experience. Like my husband Kevin said, ‘It’s 30 minutes of suck, Kelly, just get it done.’”
Zeb Smith took second and crossed the finish line in 34:41, while Joe Chapin finished in third with at time of 35:11.
There were 18 archers who competed in the event and an additional 57 in Saturday afternoon’s Mountain Madness 3D Competition. 220 people registered for the archery weekend, which ran from Friday-Sunday.
The Mountain Madness competition consisted of shooting at 25 targets, and the top four from each division were entered in a head-to-head shoot-off. Wesley Laverty won the men’s Hunter Class Championship with 253 points, while Tiffany Hartsoe won the Women’s Hunter Class Championship with a score of 240.
Brandon Waddell, the director of the Mountain Archery Festival said that because the turnout was high, he is hopeful to bring the event back to Purgatory next July.
“It was a fantastic weekend,” Wadell said. “We had lots of smiles, lots of people super jazzed about the events. It was a great first year. We had the opportunity today to sit down with management at Purgatory and mark out some possible future dates. The way that everybody came out to this was amazing. We’re really encouraged by this weekend and it’s huge momentum going forward.”
While the exercise and shooting under pressure was difficult, the archers also had to watch out for regular visitors and mountain bikers, as all of Purgatory’s various activities remained open while the competition was underway.
“The venue was fantastic all the way from upper management down to food and beverage, to the ski patrols and mechanics, they always asked ‘What can we do today?’” Wadell said. “The course set up was great, it was rigorous and a challenge. We had words like ‘Epic’ and ‘Amazing’, tossed around a lot this weekend and someone told us that it was the best archery shoot they’ve been to in a decade. I thought we were really successful in integrating the size of an archery event at this venue, while continuing to operate all of the regular attractions that Purgatory has to offer. We were able to do it safely and efficiently.”
“This event really was amazing,” Wadell said. “It brought new friendships, great camraderie, non-hunters and hunters, all together on this mountain at the same time to enjoy a really cool event.”